Emirates Airline
Emirates Airline halts flights to Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region Reuters

Emirates airlines has announced it will halt flights to the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, after militants from the Islamic State seized more territory in northern Iraq.

The Middle East's biggest airliner said it will halt flights to Arbil from August 12, citing "operational reasons".

Ultra-violent jihadists recently seized territory that had long been held by Iraqs Kurds, overpowering Kurdish peshmerga security forces. The militants seized the town of Sinjar and a number of oilfields in the surrounding region.

The campaign marked a change of tactic for the Islamic State, which had previously refrained from attacking Kurds, instead targeting Iraq's central government security forces.

The Dubai-based airline said it will continue to operate flights to Baghdad and Basra as usual, while passengers with Arbil tickets would be rebooked on alternative airlines.

Arbil and the semi-autonomous Kurdish region has been something of a safe haven within Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion and subsequent occupation.

It has attracted significantly more investment than other parts of Iraq and not experienced the destructive fighting and terrorism that plagued the capital Baghdad and other cities.

The Islamic State has seized vast swathes of territory across northern Iraq since it launched its June offensive. It has also acquired military hardware including anti-aircraft weaponry, prompting some airlines to reroute flights around Iraqi airspace.

The precautionary measures were taken after a passenger airliner was downed over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in July, leading to the deaths of all 298 people on board.